If, as Trump said, Talal was trying to “control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money”, imagine what he would be doing with his money in business, finance and academia.
On December 12, 2015, when Donald Trump was running the U.S. Presidential race, he had an interesting Twitter exchange with a Saudi prince. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal tweeted to Trump: “You are a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America. Withdraw from the U.S presidential race as you will never win.” Trump was quick with his comeback: “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected.” Was Trump speaking the truth? Trump would have known since the prince had once invested in a Trump company. People in the West are aware of al-Qaeda, ISIS and other radical Islamist groups which dream of subduing the west. But what very few know is the covert influence that Islamists try to exert on the West. If you know about Talal—among dozens of princes jailed by the Saudi crown prince on the pretext of purging the corrupt—you would know the amazing extent of influence Islamists have come to hold over the West.
What’s common between the Clintons, Obama, Citigroup, Apple, Twitter, Four Seasons, Harvard University, 21st Century Fox, Lyft, JD.com and Rupert Murdoch? Talal.
What’s common between the Clintons, Obama, Citigroup, Apple, Twitter, Four Seasons, Harvard University, 21st Century Fox, Lyft, JD.com and Rupert Murdoch? Talal. The 50th richest person in the world with an approximate fortune of $19 billion, Talal came to acquire deep assets in Western politics, finance, business, technology and academia. He is the founder, chief executive officer and 95 per cent owner of the Kingdom Holding Company, a Forbes Global 2000 company. Often his transactions and assets are disguised by investing through funds that obscure the ultimate beneficiary, according to a Bloomberg report. Though he is called the “Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia”, questions have been raised on the immense wealth that is purportedly the fruit of his business acumen. Many suspect he has been a front for the Saudi deep state that wants to buy influence in the West.
Talal, who did his bachelor’s in business administration from Menlo College in California and master’s in social science from Syracuse University, had everything in him to become the face of Saudi Arabia in the West—education, sophistication, exposure and a zeal to control the West, or at least the Western narrative about Saudi Arabia which is largely seen as the promoter of jihadi ideology. Imagine what a man who could influence the Clintons, Obama, Twitter, Harvard and Citigroup could not achieve in the U.S.!
After Trump became the U.S. President, Talal tried to mend fences with him. He tweeted: “President elect @realDonaldTrump whatever the past differences, America has spoken, congratulations & best wishes for your presidency.”
Talal’s desire to control America’s Arab narrative came to the forefront after the terrorist strike when two hijacked planes were flown into New York’s World Trade Center. At that time, a strong anti-Saudi sentiment prevailed in the U.S. as many believed Saudi Arabia was behind the strike. Talal gave New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani a $10 million donation for disaster relief after memorial service at Ground Zero.
But Giuliani rejected the donation. That was because of what Talal said while making the donation. He said the U.S. must address some of the issues that led to the attack. He said the U.S. should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause.
“I entirely reject that statement,” Giuliani said while rejecting Talal’s donation. “There is no moral equivalent for this [9/11 strike] act. There is no justification for it. The people who did it lost any right to ask for justification for it when they slaughtered 4,000 or 5,000 innocent people.” Talal’s statement showed he was jumping in to bend the narrative with his money when he sensed Americans were turning against Saudi Arabia.
Giuliani was perhaps an exception as Talal did not face rejection everywhere in the U.S. In his quest to mould the way America perceives Saudi Arabia, Talal’s biggest catch was Harvard University which accepted $20 million in 2006 to establish The Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program. Talal also made a donation of equal amount to Georgetown University for a similar project. There is nothing wrong with an American university setting up a centre for Islamic studies. In fact, the world needs to know more about Islam than just jihad and terrorism.
But accepting a donation from a prince of Saudi Arabia, the regime known for utter repression of basic freedoms and promotion of jihadi ideology, could mean justification of all that it does.
“Accepting money from a member of the royal family legitimizes the regime,” wrote Suzanne Gershowitz of the American Enterprise Institute in National Review at that time. “[M]uch of the concern about Islam and the Arab world is in fact a justified reaction to that world’s uncomfortable realities, such as the oppression of women, Islamist incitement, and apology for terror. But universities — and especially Georgetown and Harvard — are not the place to find this sort of distaste. Their classrooms, and especially Middle Eastern-studies departments, tend instead to amplify anti-American rhetoric, legitimize conspiracy theories, and, in the name of cultural relativism, gloss over the oppression that exists in the Arab world.”
Talal must have been satisfied with the returns his Harvard investment brought. Here’s a little illustration: two years later, in 2008, a Harvard Law professor associated with the Talal program, Noah Feldman, wrote an article in The New York Times titled ‘Why Shariah?’, justifying the religious code that is precisely the instrument of Saudi state to oppress its people. He tried to justify Shariah by saying the Christian and Jewish laws were as oppressive. “In fact, for most of its history, Islamic law offered the most liberal and humane legal principles available anywhere in the world. Today, when we invoke the harsh punishments prescribed by Shariah for a handful of offences, we rarely acknowledge the high standards of proof necessary for their implementation. Before an adultery conviction can typically be obtained, for example, the accused must confess four times or four adult male witnesses of good character must testify that they directly observed the sex act.”
Obviously, Talal’s money must have started working. No wonder, years later, Shariah apologists in the West have even started counting themselves as feminists.
Obviously, Talal’s money must have started working. No wonder, years later, Shariah apologists in the West have even started counting themselves as feminists. Shariah may have been a diverse tradition of jurisprudence and may certainly have some aspects that could seem positive, but today it is clearly the basis of most of the oppression in Islamic regimes. Talal’s money was even put to use in the U.S. to train school teachers who would then present a whitewashed version of the Arab world.
When Trump said Talal was trying to “control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money”, he was not totally wrong. Talal has been linked to former U.S. president Barack Obama too. A shocking revelation was made in 1988 on a TV show by prominent black politician and activist Percy Sutton who became famous as the lawyer of Malcolm X. Sutton claimed he was asked to help Obama get admission into Harvard Law School 20 years earlier. He said he was introduced to Obama by Dr. Khalid al-Mansour, the principal adviser to Talal. Sutton said al-Mansour had asked him to write a letter in support of Obama who applied to Harvard, and Sutton wrote to his friends at Harvard.
You will find a lot of information on Talal online which shows how he made inroads into various important quarters in the U.S. and funded important people, including the Clintons. If, as Trump said, Talal was trying to “control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money”, imagine what he would be doing with his money in business, finance and academia.
Today, Talal is out of captivity where he was probably being tortured by the men of the crown prince who arrested most of the Saudi elite a few months ago to strengthen his grip on the regime. In an interview, Talal showed how he was confined in a luxury hotel to disprove rumours of having been shifted to a prison and tortured. It is believed he has been freed only after he agreed to transfer a part of his wealth to the Saudi government.
Except Bill Gates and two former French presidents, François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, no one among his powerful friends came forward to support him. Perhaps, his Western friends in politics and corporate world were afraid of antagonising the crown prince who is the ultimate power in Saudi Arabia now and also has Trump’s support.
Harvard too did not protest. In fact, it would have been in an awkward situation if Talal were sentenced to a long jail term. Maybe it would then have considered renaming its Islamic Studies Program, replacing Talal’s name with that of the crown prince. Meanwhile, the professors would have got an opportunity to study how effective the Saudi laws were against corruption as they required no evidence at all.